The FTC has something to tell you about those “toning” shoes,
Outliers has to admit we’re not huge exercise fans. Sure, we know it’s healthy, and we’ll hit the gym to work up a sweat now and then. But shouldn’t exercising be … easier? Like just putting on a special pair of shoes to amp up the calorie-burning magic? Sadly, the FTC seems to have a different opinion. Reebok will pay $25 million in customer refunds to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission that it falsely advertised that its “toning” shoes could measurably strengthen the muscles in the legs, thighs and buttocks. As part of the settlement, the athletic shoe and clothing company also is barred from making some of these claims without scientific evidence.
“Settling does not mean we agree with the FTC’s allegations,” Dan Sarro, a Reebok spokesman, said in a statement last week. “We do not. We have received overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback from thousands of EasyTone customers.”
It’s the latest controversy surrounding so-called toning shoes, which are designed with a rounded or otherwise unstable sole. Shoemakers say the shoes force wearers to use more muscle to maintain balance and consumers clamored for them, turning toning shoes into a $1.1 billion market in just a few years. Companies such as Reebok, New Balance and Skechers have faced lawsuits over their advertising claims. But the FTC settlement, announced Sept. 28, is the first time the government has stepped in.
The FTC took issue with Reebok’s ads that claimed its EasyTone footwear had been proven to lead to 28% more strength and tone in the buttock muscles and 11% more strength and tone in hamstring and calf muscles than regular walking shoes. The FTC said it could not disclose if it was pursuing similar actions against other shoemakers.
“We think this is a real victory for consumers,” said Dana Barragate, an FTC attorney involved in the case. “We hope it sends a message to businesses that if they are going to make claims they must be justified.”
Rebecca Sayre of Seattle, who bought a pair of Skechers more than a year ago, said they made her legs stronger and posture better. But, she says: “They’ve lost their luster.”
So file those “toning” shoes next to the Abdomenizer and the Thighmaster under “Too Good to Be True Exercising Fads.” And hit the gym.
Coping with laughter
Gallows humor in medicine is not necessarily derogatory humor. At least according to an article in the Hastings Report written by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine bioethicist and Second City improvisation comedy instructor Katie Watson, who quotes a physician explaining that it’s the difference between “whistling as you go through the graveyard and kicking over the gravestones.”
Watson notes that cynical or degrading humor is often used by physicians when a patient’s successful treatment requires behavioral changes that a doctor is powerless to bring about. She adds that gallows humor is often common among young medical residents who bear the brunt of family or patient anger and are often in need of food, sleep and “emotional safety,” so laughter may provide “compensatory nourishment.” In fact, the article begins with an anecdote about how, after failing to save the life of a teen who was shot while delivering a pizza to the hospital ER, a resident asks, “How much do you think we should tip him?”
While Watson applauds the end of pranks that historically went on in medical school cadaver labs or jokes intended to harass women or minorities in diversifying workplaces, she says tying to suppress all gallows humor would not only be futile, but shows a lack of empathy for clinicians.
“Medicine is an odd profession, in which we ask ordinary people to act as if feces and vomit do not smell, unusual bodies are not at all remarkable, and death is not frightening,” Watson writes. “Being off-balance can make us laugh, and sometimes laughing is what keeps us from falling over.”
The gym is waiting for you.